Archive for October, 2010

A Critical Mass

Yep, a table. Made for a little bit of a blind spot, not the safest of biking practices.

Me, I have trouble deciding what stance to take on Critical Mass. I like the spirit and the message (a fun, entertaining way to promote bicycles as viable vehicles with which to share our streets), but not the means of conveying it (blocking traffic and running lights). I’ve also been one to pretty much always do what a policeman tells me to do, especially if he is looking me in the eye and telling me to stop at a red light (yes, sir!).

All that caveat business aside, the Halloween Critical Mass is tonight. If you do just one Critical Mass, this is the one to do. It’s the biggest – I’d expect well over 300 people. The weather will be sunny, clear and cool. And I’d say 2/3 of the bikers dress up, often in preposterous costumes. Even the AJC kinda likes it.

You probably oughta check this one out. If you’re in town, you’ll probably get caught in the traffic anyway. Critical Mass is a pretty unofficial organization, but meets in Woodruff Park for a “slow and scenic” ride downtown the last Friday of every month around 6pm. If you don’t have a bike, borrow one. If you don’t want to ride a bike, go check out the costumes. Happy Friday!

Football in the city

I was never much of a football girl. I grew up with a vague notion of hating aggies (whatever those were) and as a toddler would hook ‘em horns on command, but the actual football part never caught my eye. In college I always thought I had better things to do than cheer on my tiny college football team with 1,000 other people in an empty, echoey Super Dome.

Evidence. Actually enjoying myself at a football game.

In grad school I was lured to a tailgate with promises of sun, friends, BBQ, and beer on a pretty Saturday afternoon. I grudgingly went. We are not sports people. I don’t paint my face and support the team. Please. That day – who knew? I enjoyed a few sweetwaters, good company and a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. Well, huh! Football is awesome! I eventually even made it to a game! And, slowly, grew to be a Georgia Tech football fan.

And now, Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field is where I spend my home-game Saturdays. We sit in the back row of the east stands, where you can see the entire field and still catch a breeze wafting off the connector, where a group of friends congregates and stomps and cheers and sings and toasts the Yellow Jackets. It’s completely different from the typical small-town college football experience, as we are smack dab in the center of midtown Atlanta. Over my left shoulder towers the Bank of America building, and to my right, the midtown skyline. Night games are gorgeous, and if we’ve had too much to drink, we’ll walk a few blocks down Peachtree and catch a cab home. (more…)

Mapping Our Snapping

Atlanta photo map

Flickr photo by Eric Fischer

For the “How do people think of this stuff?” file:

Eric Fischer created this map of Atlanta locals’ and tourists’ favorite photo-taking spots, using geotagging data from Flickr and Picassa. Atlanta’s is one of a series of 122 such maps from around the world.

No surprises in the favorite areas for tourists – the CNN/Centennial Olympic Park/WOC/GA Acquarium area, Atlanta Botanical Garden and the MLK memorial are among the most popular. Locals pull out the cameras most often at the Krog Street Tunnel, East Atlanta Village, downtown Decatur and, oddly, all along Ponce. Oakland Cemetery, Piedmont Park and L5P have an even-ish split.

The CL story I originally came across the map in left out the answer to one commenter’s very good question: How did Fischer know who took which pictures?

On the first page of the series he explains that “Blue points on the map are pictures taken by locals (people who have taken pictures in this city dated over a range of a month or more).

Red points are pictures taken by tourists (people who seem to be a local of a different city and who took pictures in this city for less than a month).”

Yellow points indicate that he was unable to determine whether the photographer was a tourist, because the person who posted it hadn’t taken and posted any pictures from anywhere for longer than a month.

“They are probably tourists,” Fischer wrote, “but might just not post many pictures at all.”

I’m about half illiterate cartographically, so what I really want to know is how the people who made made the notes on the Atlanta Flickr photo were sure what they were tagging on a map with no streets names.

Of course there’s a significant limitation here in that the map only tells us about the photo-taking habits of people who use Flickr or Picassa and who go to the trouble to geotag their pictures. It’s really cool just the same.

Get out (of the house)!

It's fall, y'all

Now is the time to get outside people! The weather is supposed to be excellent this weekend and there are several festivalish (yes, I speak my own language, Stephanese) events going on around town. So, go, leave the house, leave the computer, and see what this city has to offer. Here are just a few ideas:

Taste of Atlanta – Saturday and Sunday, October 23-24, at Technology Square (intersection of 5th and Spring)
In addition to the normal food fare, there will also be a village showcasing the local sustainable movement with a local farmers’ market as well. Tickets are a little steep ($25 in advance, $30 at the event) but that does get you 15 Taste coupons to use at any of the various restaurant tents.

Candler Park Fall Fest – Saturday and Sunday, October 23-24, at Candler Park
There is a 5K race Saturday morning at 11:00 am before the festival begins at noon. The ever popular Tour of Homes runs from noon-6 pm on Sunday. The festival is free but the Tour of Homes will cost you $12 in advance or $15 on Sunday. I highly recommend the Tour of Homes if you can spare the cash. I’ve never been disappointed.

Dunwoody Music Festival – Saturday and Sunday, October 23-24, at Brook Run Park
There is a chili cook-off from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm on Saturday. On Sunday, there will be a battle of the bands and a classic car show, both beginning at noon. There will also be fireworks Saturday night (so be prepared if you live in the area). Regular tickets range from $10-$15 (including both one and two day passes) with other special pricing deals for adults/children, etc.

I’m sure there is a lot more going on in the city this weekend so feel free to let us know what you’re going to be doing while the weather is warm (but not too warm).

Atlanta Streets Alive – Again

ASA fall posterIf you missed it (or had a great time at) the first one, there’s another chance to stroll the center city at Atlanta Streets Alive tomorrow, October 17.

The 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot is the same as in May, but the street closures are a little less ambitious this time. Activities will be centered on Woodruff Park and Hurt Park, and along Edgewood Avenue between Peachtree and Raldolph Streets. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition-led bike loop is back too, this time at 4.4 miles.

Even if you’re not into biking, skating, jumping, hula hooping, drumming or dancing, ASA will be a chance to sample the wares from several Atlanta Street Food Coalition members’ food trucks, with plenty of ensembles providing music to eat by. And all on a day when the high is expected to be around 75, rather than 95. Can’t beat that.

Does anyone actually WANT to share the road?

Thanks CL ATL for the photo from Critical Mass a few months ago.

A friend of mine, Jim, posted yesterday about the endless bike versus car debates, sparked by the latest “SUV plows through group of cyclists” news story, this time in Augusta. (Okay, so actually that’s the first time I see a story just like this one, but in fairness, you do read about SUVs hitting single cyclists all the time).

The size of Atlanta’s cycling community apparently jumped 111% in 2009, and according to my personal anecdotal evidence, there are a lot more bikes out there than there ever were.  I see a lot more inexperienced riders flying down the sidewalks or not positioning themselves to be visible to traffic, but I also see a lot more visible, safe, cautious commuters and people just going places.  It’s an exciting time, I think, especially as the weather gets to be a more reasonable temperature for biking and people rediscover how frigging fun just running errands can be.

Jim’s concern (and honestly, the concern of anyone in the country who bikes with any regularity), is the disconnect between humans in automobiles and humans on bicycles. Both are viable means of transportation, but we tend to separate into groups and then villianize each other. As Jake the commenter in Jim’s blog points out, each side sees the worst and most egregious member of the other side as representative. The vegan jerks who blow through red lights and swerve around moving cars, with their Toms shoes and clouds of smug – those are the people I assume everyone’s up in arms about. Oh, them, or the roving bands of goo-eating spandex clad men with their clippy shoes and smooth legs. (To my friends who vaguely fit in one or the other of these categories… sorry, but you know it’s true).  And on the other hand, when I’m on a bike, just to be on the safe side, I assume that every SUV is driven by someone who is late, angry about it, drinking coffee, on the phone, and putting on makeup/shaving, all very small things that put my life in serious danger. What’s really fun is that since these are the representatives that leave comments on every news story, generally the flame wars are loud, angry, stupid, and long-lasting.

I think it’s pretty obvious that people need to show more respect to each other, but I don’t see an obvious solution to Atlanta’s (or the country’s) car-bike faceoff. I assumed it was a simple need for infrastructure – and I do still think dedicated bike lanes would encourage more people to bike, which would create more hybrid bike-car users who recognize both sides of the issues on the streets, but it clearly doesn’t stop there. What else can help?

Goodbye No. 6

Goodbye No. 6.

Almost everything that can be said about Bobby Cox has been, and by folks more articulate than me.

My first date with my wife was a Braves game in 1991 on a sweltering Friday night in July. We were married in December of ’91. Almost 19 years later, the skipper of that first date team is finally retiring.

We’re not huge sports people. We don’t have season tickets to, well, anything. Still, Bobby Cox was an unlikely constant for us. Unlikely, because we’d never consider ourselves baseball fanatics. Even more unlikely because how many managers are successful enough to stay with one team for more than two decades?

Her father might have been the biggest Braves fan I ever knew. He saw every game or listened to it on the radio. He was at the game for Hank Aaron’s 715th homerun. Tie games drove my mother-in-law nuts. Every time the two of them went to a game, there would always be extra innings.

Even when his light began to fade, and he had a hard time following the roster, he still watched and listened. He still knew Chipper and McCann. If I was at his house during baseball season, I watched or listened with him.

When he passed away, I took up the torch of watching and listening. Not quite as religiously, but as much as I could and with just as much passion.

Folks will make what they want of Bobby Cox’s legacy. For me, I’ll choose gratitude. Thank you, No. 6.

In Praise of the Arts in Atlanta

BAPS Hindu Temple

With a reasonably priced gift shop!

While largely in hibernation during my first months here, finally pushing myself out of the basement apartment house seems to be worthwhile. My latest discovery: Atlanta’s arts scene is really impressive. My own artistic aspirations waned after the paint-by-number mishap of ’89, but I still enjoy looking at interesting things.

On Thursday I stopped by a photography collection on the westside that was truly unique. It actually required special microscopes and a partnership with UGA instead of the usual bating of friends with tall cans of PBR to sit on ragged furniture in front of abandoned buildings. I know that I’ve seen that exact “exhibit” hundreds of times. And while the Atlanta Philosophy Film Festival may have been more rewarding if I was able to debate why a man chooses to drift through the woods for half an hour, I appreciate the opportunity existing for those who are into that sort of thing.


Not pictured: a handcrafted labyrinth

I traveled worlds away on Friday afternoon to marvel at the BAPS Hindu temple. Regardless of religion (or lack thereof), the architecture alone is definitely worth a ride up 85. Later that night I checked out the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll where every spot seemed filled with energy.

But what impressed me most was Inspire, Incite, Ignite at Eyedrum on Saturday. It wasn’t merely the girls dancing with flames, the homemade skeeball or the ad hoc circus acts — it was the people. I watched a man staple dollar bills to his forehead next to a couple in their 50s. And while there was certainly a great number of “those young, artsy types you’d expect to be here,” I turned one way to see a guy wearing Propagandhi, turned another to see what appeared to be a genuine Stanford alum sporting the non-thrift threads of his alma mater.

Good Food Truck

There was also a table selling barbecue that smelled really good

I actually smiled at those abandoned building shapshots the first few times and I understand about creating things that connect with your peers. Really, as someone whose childhood canvas was tracing paper, I’m not in a position to criticize anyone. But lacking resources (see recent DSO strike) and support (Banksy received mix reaction) and sheer manpower, it’s safe to say that innovative ideas seemed rare in Detroit. From the Good Food Truck to the mostly clean bathrooms to the emcee who kept things moving, the Eyedrum event was put together the right way. There was never fear of police busting in, impounding everyone’s cars and shutting everything down. The entire night was accessible to everyone and it showed both in its attendance and the work itself.

This was more real life “doing things” than I’ve subjected myself to in some time. I’ll likely spend the next few weeks confined to my bed, staring into the eyes of Anthony Bourdain and Tina Fey. But when I finally reemerge, it’s great to know that Atlanta offers so many original experiences. I’m fortunate to be here.

Fill In the Blanks

Remember when this was a club? “Jaguar,” I think it was called. Now it’s just a very empty building on a very prominent corner. But that’s only half of what’s wrong. The other half is what’s not there.

Thousands of people live and work a 10-minute walk from that building, and that’s leaving aside the thousands of people who pass through Arts Center Station every day. If any of them need to buy anything other than prepared food or coffee, they have to go to the Publix near Midtown Station or in Atlantic Station, or to the CVS at Peachtree and 6th. That erstwhile nightspot would be the perfect site for a Walgreens or for someone local to open a drugstore/market combo. That parcel of land is pretty small, but a two-level or slightly downsized version could fit. It wouldn’t even need to be open 24 hours..

Two blocks south is this derelict duo, West Peachtree and 13th(whose appearance is not at all enhanced by the ever-droopier power lines). The one on the left is brick, so it might be salvageable…in a few years when we’ve run through the surplus of condos. It’s hard to think of something useful to build there, given the size and position of the lots.  How about replacing these two condemnations-in-waiting with a tiny park?

Another notable nowhere is the restaurant graveyard at the corner of Piedmont and Morosgo. Corner of Piedmont and MorosgoI’ve lost count of the number of establishments that have met their doom there. Whatever occupies this site next, it obviously shouldn’t involve food. Same goes for its sister eyesore next door, the former Shoney’s.

Put those two lots together, though, and there’s enough space for a two-level gym built right on the street, with parking behind and beneath. With the Buckhead Crunch and Lindbergh Bally both sunk, there’s not a full-service fitness facility in that neighborhood any more. People who pass through Lindbergh Station could get their workouts in right before or after work without having to think about parking.(Of course what really ought to be on that corner is a stop for the light rail line that should be running the length of Piedmont from Turner Field to Roswell Road, but that’s a whole different fantasy.)

Finally, let’s not leave out everyone’s favorite conspicuous void: The Mistake Streets of Buckhead.
The whole “Rodeo Drive of the Southeast” notion might need some adjustment at this point. Obviously, some degree of fancy-ness is required to generate the “destination” aspect Ben Carter is so hot on, so you can’t stack it with stores in the vein of Forever 21. But you also can’t keep a development going on platinum yo-yos and yoga mats for teacup poodles. Even people who can buy $1000 purses aren’t going to come around for one every week.

So, what DO we need right there? Other than the MARTA station that should have been built there 20 years ago, that is.

I could go on and on (I really could) about all the nothings that ought to be somethings around here. What empty or underutilized space is bugging you? If you had several million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, what project would you put some of the metro area’s roughly 275,000 unemployed people to work on?

Yes, but precisely HOW superdangerous is Atlanta?

A list of the country’s 25 most dangerous neighborhoods includes FOUR in Atlanta??  Oh my god, Marietta Street between Georgia Tech and Philips Arena is going to have 307 violent crimes! In some unspecified time period. My chances of becoming a victim here are one in nine?! Maybe I should think about moving to the suburbs – you know, we can get so much more house for the price… Oooh, but this area is more hip and trendy than 99% of U.S. neighborhoods. I should probably turn to a realtor for help.

What scary stuff is lurking behind this innocuous, 100-year-old condo building and design studio a few blocks down from the aquarium?

This is the vital information that’s been making the rounds from what seems to be some bunk real estate website and its “exclusive crime data.” It says they use algorithms, though, so it’s probably legit.

The Atlanta PD issued a response that I thought was pretty decent – City Councilman Kwanza Hall posted it here). They point out that no one can tell what methodology is used, that their numbers don’t match up with APD stats, that the study doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that the area in question includes major venues that host hundreds of thousands of people every year, and that the author is unresponsive to inquiries.

Do you think APD is hiding crime stats behind their skepticism? Is this report just sensationalism and jerrymandering in the pursuit of wrapping things up into a top-25 list? Is my chance of becoming a victim here in one year really one in nine? Ought I be panicking?

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